Catching night crawlers is one of my favorite childhood memories. My dad and I would go into our garden at night and grab the slimy worms quick in just the right way so they wouldn’t disappear back into their holes. I loved collecting them in anticipation of fishing the next day.
One particular summer day my dad, mom, younger sister and I took our worms and went fishing at nearby MacKay reservoir. Usually we found a spot along the bank but this time we fished off the dam. I can’t remember much about the fishing, I suppose it was a lot of my dad baiting the hook with the night crawlers and me casting them into the greenish water.
Not long after we got set up fishing, a group of people came to play at the dam. They carried inner tubes and started swimming in the cool water not far from where we were fishing. I remember watching as each guy curled up inside an inner tube then rolled down the slope of the dam splashing into the water. It looked like fun and the entire group was laughing and having a great time. I’m not sure how long we attempted to fish while they splashed nearby; mostly I remember what happened next.
One of the guys didn’t come up.
The laughing quickly turned to concern then to frantic searching in the murky water. The next part of my memory consists mostly of the flashing red lights of the ambulance. I learned later my dad drove our truck to a nearby house to call 9-1-1. Emergency workers had difficulty finding the missing swimmer due to poor visibility. They eventually found him but he didn’t make it.
Experiences matter. Highly emotional experiences tend to hold enormous meaning throughout our lifetime. They shape us to the core and formulate our reactions.
For me and my younger sister the drowning at MacKay Reservoir was an experience we will never forget. The meaning I carry with me today from this experience is a distrust of horseplay around water. I tend to be extra vigilant of carelessness.
It’s less important what the experience was; the critically important part is the meaning associated with the experience. Some seemingly significant events have little to no impact long term and other situations, which seem minor, can resonate for a lifetime. If I had known the person who died or the reactions of my parents had been different, the experience may have had an even more dramatic emotional impact.
The impact of meaningful events is especially noticeable in marriage. You need to know the experiences of your spouse and meaning they gained from them.
Sometimes it’s difficult to put to words the meaning associated with an experience. The more you practice identifying the meaning derived from situations, the better you can explain it to your spouse. The better the meaning is relayed the better you will understand each other.
Your experiences have shaped you. It’s important for your spouse to understand the meaning you carry with you today.
Comment below to share how your experiences have impacted you.